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date: 02 June 2020


  • Maurice A. Ratliff


City in England. The earliest reference to music in the city, located near Cambridge, is found in the 12th-century Liber eliensis in which Cnut is reputed to have been impressed with the singing of the Ely monks. Before the Reformation, polyphony was sung in the Lady Chapel, contrasting with the plainsong of the monks’ choir in the cathedral; no music from this period survives. In 1539 the monastery was dissolved and in 1541 the King’s New College at Ely was established.

Tye was appointed Magister choristarum at the cathedral in 1543 and was succeeded in 1561 by Robert White. Some music survives from their late 16th-century successors, John Farrant, William Fox and George Barcroft. Towards the end of the 16th century the dean and chapter provided viol lessons for the choristers, although there is no evidence that viols were actually played in the services. From 1580 to 1685 reference is made in Dickson’s catalogue to ‘other instructors in musick and on the viols occasionally’. A considerable quantity of fine music, much of it recently published, was written by a native of Ely, John Amner, who was organist from ...

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